Article written by Becky Levitt
Sweet, salty, sour, spice – it’s that critical palate-pleasing
cocktail in Thai cuisine that revolutionized my culinary world. As a
caucasian mutt from Florida, this combination was unlike the Southern
fried stuffs I typically sought to stuff myself. After one slurp of
Tom Kai Gai years ago, I immediately declared, I can eat this every
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Fortunately, I married someone who is equally addicted to charring his
tongue with chilies and sourcing fresh lemongrass from the market.
When we moved to LA from Brooklyn, we even chose our current locale
because of it’s close proximity to Hollywood’s thriving Thai town.
When I quit my (insane) full-time job, I proposed we bring our
collective palate to Thailand and explore the soul of Thai food
culture in the sprawling rural markets and shoddily built food stalls
near the Andaman sea. Armed with only an iPhone and iron stomachs, we
mingled with the friendly vendors near Ao Nang in the Krabi province
of Southern Thailand to capture the flavors of the local produce and
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My first discovery was a brown Brazil nut-shaped fruit known as Snake
Fruit. It has a reddish-brown scaly skin which reveals three lobes
that are hard to the touch, but soften to the crunch. The tart, sweet
flavor is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. It was more acidic than a
lychee and crunchy like apple.
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As anticipated, the selection of seafood was endless. Fresh squid,
large blue crabs, and various types of small local fish lined the
tables. Much of what didn’t sell at the market was re purposed as fish
balls, placed on skewers, and laid on small grills. These skewers were
the most popular snacks in the market. Every other stall seemed to
have their own interpretation of BBQ fish balls.
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In the market of nearly 60 stalls, there was only one vendor who sold
fresh curry by the ounce. She was a jovial women, proud of her
vibrant pastes that boasted a strong aroma that enraptured the air. I
had never seen fresh curry before and felt privileged to try her spicy
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What surprised me the most about my market tour, was the generosity
and giggly demeanor of the people I encountered in the Krabi province.
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I was initially nervous about investigating this part of Thailand that
is continually being exploited by Western developers who have changed
the way of life for the people here. I guess I expected slight
resentment or dirty looks as a lone Westerner. What I didn’t expect
was the patience and willingness to answer my silly English questions.
For anyone yearning to learn more about a culinary culture, I suggest
get on a plane and engage your curiosity.
[singlepic id=65 w=320 h=240 float=]This is me eating dumplings…thought i should be eatin something asian. nom nom nom.
About the author : Becky Levitt is a freelance content producer/consultant with an incurable case of wanderlust and an insatiable appetite for local food wherever she goes. Follow @ThePopTard.